“Aquaman” is Original but Poorly Written

“Aquaman” was directed by James Wan and stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Nicole Kidman. The film is about the story of Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, who is attempting to stop a war between Atlantis and the people above ground by taking the heir to the throne that he rightfully deserves through his bloodline.

DC has burned me on every occasion by every attempt ran by someone not named Christopher Nolan or Patty Jenkins, so I came into this movie extremely skeptical they could pull this off. The trailer and the goofy visuals from it made me even less excited, but still, maybe Wan and Momoa could combine for something that could rival the fun spirit of an MCU film.

The Good

I was truly skeptical about the visual direction that Wan was going with after seeing the trailer. But after seeing the film, I really think he pulls off the scope and the vision of the underwater world he was hoping for. Most of the CGI used throughout the movie, and boy is there a lot, looks pretty terrific, and I was truly in awe at the scope created by the underwater world.

More than any other scene in the film, it is the moment in The Trench that stands out as the major highlight. No scene really holds up to the level of tension that this one does, mostly due from Wan bringing his horror directing ability to make some truly suspenseful moments here. All of it works because of the gorgeous visuals, accurately representing the terror of the moment.

Momoa is very good in the film, and Wan has done a great job at working the strengths of his performance into the overall feel of the movie. There’s a certain charm to the way Momoa delivers his lines, and even when the script or scene is failing him, he finds a way to make most of his major lines redeemable.

Speaking of Momoa, he gives a strong comedic turn in the film. This does not reach the heights of something like a “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Guardians of the Galaxy,” but it is the best effort DC has had to date in the genre. There are a few strong bits of dialogue, I think entirely from Momoa, that made me laugh, more than I could say about the rest of DC’s filmography combined.

The Bad

Unfortunately, DC’s best attempts at comedy still aren’t great. More often than not, the dialogue in this film falls flat, specifically in its efforts to get a laugh across. Other than Momoa’s charisma working through the rather lackluster script, whenever either Heard or Wilson has a chance to show some personality, they just fail, leaving awkward silence in place of laughter.

Don’t worry, the bad writing does not stop at the film’s attempt at humor. The writing, pretty much at any time, is clunky, and it makes for some brutally bland scenes, or scenes that just feel uncomfortable to the performers. There are various moments that are clearly just people speaking exposition in the most generic ways possible. Those moments, along with stale back and forths and a lack of anything really exciting in what is being said, makes these vibrant, exciting visuals often feel a little wasted.

Along with the lack of an exciting script, most of the action felt rather generic, especially, again, with how crazy and out there some of the visual effects were. Besides the Trench scene, which was mostly enjoyable as a scene of horror, not action, all of the fights following the introductory fight were bland and never really gained my attention.

All I really thought while watching “Aquaman” was just how cheesy this entire film truly is. I get it, the character is one that is somewhat ridiculous. But the film never makes this quirkiness and originality into something as exciting as the visuals or the premise really allows. The movie gets weird at times, sure, but there just isn’t enough to make it work as well as it could have given a better script or better supporting characters.

The Pitbull and Rhea song. It is a dumpster fire. I mean, who OK’ed this awful Pitbull song with a cover of Toto’s “Africa” in the chorus? And not only is this one of the worst songs I have ever heard, but it comes in at the middle of the movie, right when I was starting to slightly enjoy the damn film. I just, I just can’t with this song, I cannot.

Conclusion

“Aquaman” is different than other DC movies, but it is only minimally better than most of them. Momoa is great, and Wan does a great job at working the movie around his natural charisma. The visuals are mostly spectacular, but the problem comes with much of its writing, as it is simply not good. The action scenes could be improved, as could the pacing and the villain, but as it stands, “Aquaman” feels, at best, like a low quality version of a low-tier MCU film. This is a pretty fine movie, and fine is something I guess I’ll just learn to accept with DC until proven otherwise.5

Get tickets and showtimes for “Aquaman” here (in theaters 12/21)


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